Glossary


You can speak paddlesports like a pro with this glossary of common terms.

Amidships – The area roughly in the center of the canoe lengthwise.

Beam – The width of a canoe or kayak measured at the widest point.

Bent-Shaft Paddle – A canoe paddle with a bend in the shaft, usually at its throat. Increases efficiency (power), with varying compromise in control.

Blade – The wide, flat area of a paddle, used for propulsion.

Bow – Front of the canoe or kayak.

Bulkhead – A sealed compartment fore or aft in a decked canoe or kayak. Primarily required for flotation but also used as storage area.

Canoe – An open craft with pointed ends that is propelled with a single-bladed paddle. Also called an “open boat.”

Chine – The edge of the kayak; transition area between the bottom of the boat and the side of the boat.

Class I-VI – International standard classification system for rating the difficulty of rapids, with I being the easiest.

Coaming – See Cockpit.

Cockpit – The opening in the deck of a kayak or closed canoe where the paddler sits. The curved lip around its edge, used to secure a spray skirt, is the coaming.

Deck – Closed-in area over the bow and/or stern of a canoe or kayak. Sheds water and, on a canoe, adds strength to the gunwales.

Draw Stroke – Used to move the boat sideways. Performed by placing the paddle into the water parallel to the boat at an arm’s reach away, then pulling boat over to it.

Feathered Paddle – A kayak paddle in which the blades are set at an angle to each other to present the edge to the wind.

Ferry – A maneuver used to cross a current with little or no downstream travel. Uses the current to move a boat laterally.

Final Stability – Also called “secondary stability.” Describes a boat’s resistance to tipping once it has been leaned to a point beyond its “initial stability.”

Flare – A hull cross section that grows wider as it rises from the waterline toward the gunwales.

Freeboard – The vertical distance measured from a boat’s waterline to the lowest part of its gunwale.

Grab Loop – A short rope or grab-handle threaded through the bow/stern stems of a kayak or canoe to assist with portaging and carrying. Also refers to the safety strap attached to the front of the spray skirt.

Gradient – The steepness of a riverbed over a specified distance, usually per mile.

Grip – The end of a canoe paddle opposite the blade.

Gunwales – Structural supports that run end to end along the top of the hull. Inside strips are “inwales”; outside are “outwales.”

Hatch – Access port on the front and/or rear deck of a touring or sea kayak.

Hull – The body of a canoe or kayak; the area that has the greatest impact on how the boat and water interact.

Hull Configuration – Shape of the hull, or that part affected by water, wind, and waves.

Initial Stability – Term used to describe a boat’s resistance to leaning (“tippiness”).

Kayak – A decked boat that is paddled from a seated position using a two-bladed paddle.

Keel – A strip or extrusion along the bottom of a boat to prevent (theoretically) side-slipping. Adds rigidity or hull support.

Keel Line – The longitudinal shape of the canoe’s bottom when looked at from the side.

Lay-Up – Manner in which layers of fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber are placed to make a composite canoe or kayak.

Life Jacket – Personal buoyancy vest required by law for every passenger of all watercraft. See PFD.

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